But it was not a military funeral for a career soldier. Volodymyr Losev’s attack on the army was as sudden as it was sudden.
Just over three months ago, a 38-year-old civilian, driving a truck and driving a crane, worked to support his family in a small village near the southwestern Ukrainian port city of Odessa.
Then came the war, and everything changed.
“He was never in the army, but he signed up on the first day of the war,” said Victor Chesolin, Losev’s brother-in-law, after the janaza.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February. Like many other Ukrainian men, Losev decided he wanted to help protect his country. He had no previous military experience. But he knew how to fire an air rifle, and because of his job he had special driving skills, Chesolin said.
So in February, when a letter came from the army recruiting center, Losev came and asked to be enlisted. Skilled drivers were in demand, and the army accepted his offer.
He left home with his wife and sons – 13-year-old Hrehori and 15-year-old Dennis – and moved to western Ukraine for two or three weeks of training. He was a good Marxist, it turned out, and the army made him a sniper, Chesolin said.
Soon, he was in the front lines in eastern Ukraine, fighting Russian forces. His family did not know much about where he was – he did not discuss the location.
Then came the terrible call. One of Losev’s fellow soldiers, a friend named Yulia. Her husband died.
Losev died May 7 near the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, his family was told. Chesolin said a roadside mine exploded when he ran over a military vehicle he was driving, injuring other soldiers in the vehicle and killing Losev, Chesolin said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Fighting in the area was fierce, and rescuing his body was complicated. It took the army a few days to get him out of the house.
On May 16, Yulia, her nails painted periodically in the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag, was waiting outside their home when the funeral van brought her coffin. The mourners lined the streets, kneeling in reverence as the van drove away.
As he walked to the small cemetery on the outskirts of the village, he held his son’s hand, the national flag flying in the air.
The tomb was open and waiting, the band standing to one side. Leaving the mourners behind, his wife came forward with the coffin and asked him to sit on the grass.
She sank to her knees, tears streaming down her cheeks. For the last time, he caressed her chest and bowed to her. For the last few moments, she could be alone with her husband, the man who quickly became a soldier – and then left.